Warriors open with defeat of Blue Devils

Published 9:01 pm Thursday, December 5, 2019

By Matthew Hatfield


Not only is it the holiday season but also it is the start of basketball. The Nansemond River High School Warriors varsity boys’ team opened its 2019-20 campaign on Wednesday night at home against the Mathews High School Blue Devils, who came in off a 59-40 victory over Northumberland in their opener the day before.

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It took only 1:27 for Nansemond River to build a quick 8-0 lead behind a pair of three-pointers from Luke Williamson, one of four juniors in the starting lineup for the Warriors. Mathews would fight back from the early deficit to take a brief 14-11 lead later in the opening stanza when Nansemond River responded with a 10-2 spurt. From there, they wouldn’t trail again, prevailing 73-64.

“I felt pretty good coming out and hit my shots well,” said Williamson. “After that 8-0 lead and time-out, we took them lightly. We have to keep going 100 percent and not take anybody lightly. We could’ve tightened up on defense a little bit, but we’re going to get it done in practice and be ready for Friday.”

Longtime Warriors Coach Ed Young was not surprised by how the opener played out, with both good and bad throughout.

“I told our team in practice that our team immaturity and lack of experience will hurt us for a bit until we grow. You can’t rush it,” Young said. “I think we will get better. We have quite a few new kids in there. We have seven new junior varsity move-ups. We have some returning varsity kids that didn’t get a lot of action also. It pretty much went the way I expected, since it’s early.”

The coaches are asking several of those new faces to play more minutes than they ever have before.

Williamson called his role “the same thing Jamal did,” referencing previous starting point guard Jamal Boone, one of seven seniors that graduated from a Warriors team that won 16 games and reached the regional semifinals a season ago. “I do shoot the ball more, though. I’ve just got to take his spot since he left, make sure the team is straight and run the team.”

A second team All-Region performer a season ago for the Warriors, senior Justin Fatherly bunched 10 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter after sitting most of the third period. Outside of Fatherly, there aren’t many proven commodities on this Nansemond River squad. So the 17 points, including 5-of-7 from three-point distance, from Williamson was very encouraging to see.

“Luke can hit that open shot. I got on him in the fall league about hitting that open shot when they allow you to do so,” Young noted. “At 5-5, we know he’s not going to hit a lot with somebody in his face. He’s more of a playmaker for us. Let me tell you, we’re a decent outside shooting team. We’re going to shoot a lot of 3’s and capable of hitting them. I would like to get some more lay-ups in our offense, too.”

Junior Jakari Joy and sophomore Trey Chapman had 10 rebounds apiece. Joy handed out a game-best seven assists. While Nansemond River out-rebounded Mathews 54-41, they will look to improve their foul shooting (9-of-22) and reduce the number of turnovers (22) as they move into Southeastern District play.

Young took some flak for scheduling a game with Mathews, a Class 1 school that reached the state tournament quarterfinals as recent as 2017.

“The way it’s set up, it doesn’t matter who you play. They’re a good 1A team and challenged us. It was a solid opening game for us. Now of course, we’re going to go way up the ladder in terms of potential and talent with King’s Fork,” stated Young as his Warriors get ready to visit The Kennel on Friday to take on a team that’s among the top contenders in all of Class 4.

“They’re a physical, very good ball club over there. We’re probably not fully ready to play a team of that caliber right now, but you know what, it’s next on the schedule. We’ll have to do some things both different and better to compete, and hopefully that will happen.”